Wednesday, July 7, 2010

My Grandfather's Pond

I am so pleased with my little pond that in the week since it's been installed I have been buying stuff to make it happy.

Since a pond is supposed to have 60% of its surface covered with plants in order to function as an ecosystem, first of all I went plant shopping. I got an adorable miniature cattail, a golden sedge that will also serve to camouflage the joining of two edge stones, some water hyacinth to float along the surface, and a couple of other plants that I hope will bloom some day.

Since the pond doesn't have a filter, to keep the water somewhat clear I purchased some oat straw pellets and a foul-smelling liquid that is supposed to introduce beneficial microbes into the pond. Then came the fish--two lovely little shubunkin, a type of goldfish that is colored a bit like koi. Mine have splotchy black and white bodies, and red heads. Today I ordered a tiny solar-powered floating fountain to aerate the water for the shubunkin.

I am grateful to the frogs, who showed up on their own initiative and didn't cost a penny.

Designing the pond wasn't easy. I wanted to keep things simple, so I tried to find a preformed pond that I could just plop into the patio. All the preformed ponds I could find, however, were of so-called natural shapes, i.e., kidney- or amoeba-shaped.

In fact, the word "natural" appeared with great frequency in the pond websites, all of which were unanimous in proclaiming that a proper pond should look like it was put there by Gaia Herself, instead of by your friendly local contractor. These natural ponds were often pictured in close proximity to a house, next to the barbecue grill and the kids' swing set. And ponds, according to the websites, looked especially natural when supplemented with waterfalls and babbling brooks.

The other important characteristic of a proper pond was its perfect clarity. If you couldn't see the least pebble in the bottom, your pond was not a proper pond. To achieve this state you needed a pump, a filter, a skimmer, a bubbler, and a large selection of products, some less natural than others.

My rebellion against the water clarity machines sprang more from technophobia than from ecological ethics. Even if someone were to install all that stuff, there was no way I could maintain it, let alone troubleshoot it. And even if it were all to function perfectly, I knew that every time I sat by the pond I would wonder how much electricity all those gizmos were consuming. And for some reason I couldn't take the clear-water imperative to heart. Isn't a greenish tinge in pond water the most natural thing in the world?

On the other hand, I didn't want a "natural" pond shape. Something in me kept calling for geometry and symmetry, and a frankly man-made look. I started thinking that more than mere chance might be at work when I found that the only geometric preformed ponds available had to be imported from England.

At about that time I happened to be reading a gardening book in which the author unequivocally stated that if a garden pond is anywhere near a house, it should be geometric in shape. I turned to the copyright page. Sure enough: Great Britain. Then a book about the gardens of Provence came into my hands, and in all the fabulous gardens all the ponds were geometric, and the water in every last one of them was unabashedly green.

And then I remembered my grandfather's pond, in his farm in Catalonia. It sat next to the well where in summer we used to cool the wine in a bucket. The pond was made of cement with a brick border, and it was rectangular, and green, and full of frogs.

So after all those web searches and consultations with gurus and garden book perusals, I arranged for a rectangular hole to be dug in our patio, and a flexible liner to be put in the hole, which I then filled with the hose. No pumps, no skimmers, no waterfalls. Just my grandfather's frog pond, minus the well and the stone benches and the grape arbor under which we sat at night. But a good pond nevertheless.

6 comments :

  1. And I am looking forward to seeing it, beyond the photos I have already seen...

    Ponds are not clear. Not real ponds.

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  2. I love the sound of your pond. With fish and frogs, and lily pads. Lovely.

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  3. I've seen it and it's stunning - a three-dimensional haiku.

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